Saturday, June 9, 2012

Goal Setting

We've all been given lectures on goal setting, haven't we? Especially at the start of the year when people set resolutions and intentions for the year. It's all well and good to think about what you would like to accomplish, but it is absolutely critical that those resolutions and intentions are backed up with a solid plan, and that there is regular reflection on those goals. Without follow-up and follow-through, goals stay as meaningless statements of intention. Just talk with no walk.

Being June now, we are halfway through 2012. Now is as good a time as any to reflect on things and assess where you're at in achieving the goals you set earlier in the year. Have you actually done what you've said you're going to do? Or have you taken the steps to ensure that those goals are achieved? If you answered "yes"you're on track. If you said "no" to both questions, it may be time to reassess and re-set your goals.

It might sound cliche, but I really do like the S.M.A.R.T. goals concept and believe they really are relevant when it comes to running. Whether your goal is to learn how to run, learn how to love running, run a new distance, or improve your finish time on a previously completed distance, all goals are equally valuable and important to set and it's important that the goals are both smart and S.M.A.R.T. This will keep you on track, keep you focused, prevent injury, and remind you of why you are tying up your laces regularly. It is crucial for maintaining a positive attitude toward your running, and not discourage you because you shot for something too high. I am not going to lie to you and say that there are never days where I really don't feel like running. There are plenty of days like that. But keeping my mind centered on my goals reminds me that each run I do is important. It also decreases the likelihood of giving up entirely, even if a day off or so is taken when I'm really not feeling it. 

I am going to go over S.M.A.R.T. goals one letter at a time, but use specific examples based on common running goals to illustrate how you can set the smartest goals for yourself:


Smart goals are SPECIFIC
  • My goal is to learn how to run
    • I will be able to run for 10 minutes without stopping.
  • My goal is to learn to love running
    • I will join a running club that will allow me to meet like-minded people that I can run with.
  • My goal is to run a new distance
    • I will run a half marathon before the end of 2012, and commence a complete training program 16 weeks prior to the selected race date.
  • My goal is to or improve my finish time on a previously completed distance
    • I will make adaptations to the training I did for this distance previously to incorporate strength-training, tempo runs, and speed sessions at the track. 
Smart goals are MEASURABLE 
  • My goal is to learn how to run
    • I will start by doing 2:1 run/walk intervals and progressively increase the ratio over time. I will buy a watch with an interval timer to help me track my intervals. Success will be measured by the comfortable increase in the interval.
  • My goal is to learn to love running
    • I will track and measure my success by regularly writing down my thoughts on my attitude toward joining each weekly group run. I will challenge myself to suggest/say yes to joining a fun run we can do together in the community. I will also consider suggesting we run in beautiful or new areas to change routine and add adventure to our running.
  • My goal is to run a new distance
    • I have selected a race to complete October, therefore training will start in June. I will measure my success by crossing the finish line with a smile on my face!
  • My goal is to or improve my finish time on a previously completed distance
    • I will track my progress at my training sessions, by noting in my training journal if up-tempo workouts are feeling progressively easier and are getting faster. I will measure my success by crossing the finish line in less time than before. 
Smart goals are ATTAINABLE 
  • My goal is to learn how to run
    • I am new to running and not wanting to bite off more than I can chew and choosing a long distance as a first goal. 10 minutes is a stretch for me, but something I can easily get to with patience, time, and a good solid plan. Once I achieve this goal, I can move onto something bigger!
  • My goal is to learn to love running
    • There are plenty of community groups that I can join if I challenge myself to take the risk of signing up. I can't rely on the group to inspire a love for running in me, only to help me stay motivated. I must focus on maintaining a positive attitude toward running by showing up ready to go, with a smile on my face, and the willingness to reflect on how it's making me feel.
  • My goal is to run a new distance
    • I have selected a distance which is slightly out of my comfort zone but not too far beyond. I must be able to comfortably complete approximately half the distance before taking it on, knowing that that distance will be very regularly completed (weekly) in my training.
      • To complete a 10K, 5K should be comfortable
      • To complete a half marathon, 10K should be comfortable
      • To complete a marathon, a half marathon should be comfortable
  • My goal is to or improve my finish time on a previously completed distance
    • I cannot expect to achieve a personal record at every race. I cannot expect to shave off multiple minutes off my finish time every time. Improvement slows down with experience and my goal is based on knowing what amount of improvement I can expect at my current level of fitness:
      • Athletes in their second or third year of training can expect to see gains in excess of 8-percent 
      • Athletes who've been training and racing for years shouldn't expect improvements higher than the 1- to 2-percent range. 
      • Highly experienced athletes should look for improvements that are less than 1 percent.
Smart goals are RELEVANT 
  • My goal is to learn how to run
    • I have spoken to my doctor and have been given the OK that running is a safe option for me and will be of benefit to my health. 
  • My goal is to learn to love running
    • I have the time to dedicate to a new hobby and to invest on getting to know people and learning about the sport of running.
  • My goal is to run a new distance
    • My calendar is not overwhelming in the coming months and I will comfortably be able to find the time to regularly train, knowing that it means increasing my current time commitment to running.
  • My goal is to or improve my finish time on a previously completed distance
    • I have thought through and sought consultation on how increasing the intensity of my training will impact me physically, emotionally, and mentally. I have the time, the energy, the commitment, and the state of health to ensure that this will be a safe and enjoyable experience.
Smart goals are TIME-BOUND 
  • My goal is to learn how to run
    • I will be able to run for 10 minutes without stopping after 4 months of training. I will start at 2:1 intervals and be comfortable with 5:1 intervals after 2 months.
  • My goal is to learn to love running
    • I have selected a running club that meets at a time and location that's convenient for me to regularly be part of. I have cleared myself of as many conflicts as I can for those times, and am committing to going on the dates written in my calendar. I have a friend that I can invite to join me so I don't chicken out.
  • My goal is to run a new distance
    • I have signed up for a training program with a goal race in mind / I have signed up for a race. This race is taking place in October and I start training next weekend. My weekly workouts have been transferred into my calendar.
  • My goal is to or improve my finish time on a previously completed distance
    • I have noted the adaptations needed for each of my workouts, including specific pace-goals. I am tracking these in my training journal with daily notes.
There are several reasons why I am signed up for so many races already for this year. I'm a race junkie, enjoy the race experience and the souvenir bling. But the most important reason is that it keeps me focused and gives me a purpose for the hundreds of miles I log. Having the next several months of races planned already on my race calendar means I know exactly what my running goals will look like over the coming months and gives me something to focus on and plan around.

If you want a hand honing your own training goals, please be in touch! I'd love to work with you :) I also happen to work for the best endurance sports training program out there, Team In Training!

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